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Polychrome Wood Sculpture Studio

We study and treat polychrome wood sculptures, but also sculptures made of ivory or of wax. We have a double mission: to gain a better understanding of these sculptures and to ensure that they are optimally preserved for future generations.

Layers of paint expose history

The team consists of a mix of experienced conservators and young colleagues who are up to date with the latest techniques. What unites them is their expertise and love of the profession. This is reflected in a wide range of tasks: from research to effective conservation-restoration treatments and passing on knowledge to colleagues and the general public.

Emmanuelle Mercier

In Belgium, polychrome wood sculptures have traditionally been painted over several times. They carry their history in the different layers of paint. That is what makes our work particularly fascinating. Although these historical modifications also present us with many challenges, for example, when it comes to deciding how far to go in a treatment.

Dr Emmanuelle Mercier, head of the studio

Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque sculptures

We are specialised in:

  • Romanesque and Gothic sculptures
  • sculptures and altarpieces from the former Southern Netherlands
  • baroque ensembles
  • historical and technical evolutions of polychromy, from the Middle Ages to Early Modern Times.

The focus of our studio is on high quality pieces and/or sculptures that can make an important contribution to scientific research.

Step-by-step research

  1. Visual examination: tool marks, assembly techniques, guild or workshop marks that are characteristic of a period, place of manufacture, workshop or artist. This step may also include a radiographic examination and a dating and identification of the type of wood.
  2. Stratigraphic and topographic research: with a stereo microscope we uncover the history of the different layers of colour. This examination is supplemented by laboratory analyses.
  3. Documentation by means of photographs and microscope images in 2D and 3D.
  4. Interpretation and contextualisation of the results.
  5. Writing of an illustrated scientific report and publication of articles in national and international journals and specialised publications, including the series of the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK-IRPA).

Bespoke treatment

Sculptures in wood, ivory or wax, altars, altarpieces, pulpits, marionettes, reliquaries... Each sculpture receives a well thought-out treatment, tailored to the object. Our technical interventions are in line with the latest scientific developments. Depending on the condition of the work, the study and treatment are carried out in the workshop or on site. Decisions on the treatment of masterpieces are usually guided by an international commission of experts.

Each treatment is described in detail in an illustrated report. This includes:

  • a study of the context and the materials of the object
  • a diagnosis
  • an argumentation for the choice of treatment
  • a detailed description of the different phases.

The report is richly illustrated with diagrams and photographs taken by the Imagery Unit.

Scientifically substantiated

Our scientific research is always led by two experts with a double specialisation: art history and conservation-restoration.

Dr Ingrid Geelen, wood sculpture expert: "We study the pieces entering the studio for study or restoration, but we also conduct research into broader themes, such as certain production techniques or specific masters. We take an interdisciplinary approach to such research, as the input of our fellow experts from other disciplines is often of inestimable value. We also use our expertise for national and international research projects. Or, for example, within the working groups of ICOM-CC, the Committee for Conservation of the International Council of Museums."

If you have any questions or would like more information about our studio, feel free to get in touch with us!

Emmanuelle Mercier
Emmanuelle Mercier
Head of the studio
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Our experts

Ingrid Geelen
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Violette Demonty
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Erika Rabelo
Sandy Van Wissen
Marta Darowska
Corinne Van Hauwermeiren